Literally, I do dream of muscle-ups. Last night I had a dream where I was in a gym (not CrossFit 405 South in Norman) surrounded by a bunch of non-CrossFitters. I was playing around on the bars, and by some miracle of sleep, I did a muscle-up! My first muscle-up. From my place atop the bar, arms locked out in a perfectly straight, successful position, I smiled at the crowd of people below me.

And they just looked at me.

“I did it!” I said, obviously excited. “I did a muscle-up—I’ve never done one before!”

And they all just looked at me and shrugged. “So?”

Those dream bastards.

Luckily, if you’ve ever completed you’re first muscle-up or double-under or un-scaled push-up, or any sort of PR at all, and you were at CrossFit 405 South in Norman (or any other box), I can be 99% certain you were met with a different response.

And if you haven’t yet completed your first muscle-up (like myself), and you’re merely at the stage where you dream of them, this should help.

Recently, several of CrossFit 405 South’s members did get their first muscle-up (thanks to the pressure from Open workout 16.3 and the help of a few coaches). One of our coaches even instructed his girlfriend via text as she sent him videos of her failed attempts. And then…yes! With a few carefully directed pointers, she got her first bar muscle-up. From a coach in Norman, Oklahoma—more than a thousand miles away.


Here are 4 tips from that same coach at CrossFit 405 South:

Kipping: First and foremost is perfecting the kip swing, which requires tight “hollow” and arch positions, and strong transitions between these two positions with your shoulders. Practice kipping while hanging from the bar, swinging through your shoulders and hips. Remember, the kip swing is not swinging your legs! You should be able to make your body stop swinging at any time by locking your shoulders.

Baby Steps: If you’re not already, you need to be proficient at pull-ups, chest-to-bars, and dips. You can’t do a chest-to-bar once and expect to move on to muscle-ups. You have to build a strong foundation first. That said, there are drills to practice to build the movement patterns and train your body for a muscle-up, even if you aren’t quite ready strength-wise.

  1. False-grip holds on the rings/bar
  2. Progressions on the rings
  3. Using rings or a bar tied to the rig with bands to move through the pattern with added resistance
  4. Use a “ring thing” to train the strict movement
  5. Jumping muscle-ups on both rings and bar

Strength: With all your skills, you need a solid strength foundation. Being proficient at gymnastic movements is hard work and takes a lot of dedication that many people are not willing to invest (or don’t realize they need to). Some people think gymnastics movements should be easier than barbell movements, but in most cases, that isn’t true. Some people can’t push-press their bodyweight, yet expect to be able to do a handstand push-up. So to build your strength, practice:

  1. Pendlay rows
  2. Strict pull-ups & dips
  3. Support holds on the rings (top and bottom of a dip)
  4. Bench press
  5. REAL push-ups!

The Details: Now that you’ve got the strength and basic skills down, here are a few tips for when you’re ready to try for a muscle-up:

  1. Your arms should stay straight until after you’ve popped your hips. “When your arms bend, the power ends!” So do your best not to pull into that bar or rings until you’ve flung your hips to the sky.
  2. Pull the bar to your belly, not your chest. That’s the aim, after all—you want to be nearly on top of that bar or set of rings.
  3. Lean back. As you’re kipping, lean back and away from the bar so you have a good position from which to pull your belly to the bar.
  4. Good luck! Tell us about your first muscle-up experience in the comments, or what helped you!

CrossFit 405 South Norman

— Chandler Neal | Communications Admin | CrossFit 405 South